law enforcement

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Slow Down, Speedy

27 Sep 2011

Eyes in the sky are now watching you speed down the eastbound lanes of I-235 between 53rd and Polk. Starting Wednesday, September 28, police will begin issuing tickets for speeds in excess of 10 miles over the limit. Fines are scheduled to be $65 for violations 11-15 miles over the speed limit, $75 for 16-20 miles over, and $80 plus $2 for each mile over 21 mph above the speed limit.

Cameras cover all four lanes, so don't think that you can slide by on the right...

And you had better watch your back driving around the rest of the region as well - there are five additional fixed cameras and one mobile camera placed around Des Moines on a rotating basis. Clive has at least nine on Hickman alone.


View Des Moines Fixed Traffic Camera Locations in a larger map

Despite statements that the cameras are intended to "reduce side impact crashes", it is pretty clear that income is a driving factor (so to speak) in the decision to install these enforcement cameras. Why do I believe this? because they are unmarked. If the intent was truly to reduce crashes and infractions at particularly dangerous intersections, they would be clearly marked with signage at the intersection. Rather there are inconspicuous signs when entering the City - "Photo enforced" on a small white sign on the right shoulder, for example.

By and large, I follow traffic laws. I don't speed, and I am pretty conscious of coming to a complete stop at red lights, so I am not particularly worried about getting tagged. It rubs me the wrong way, however, that the City is disguising what appears to be an income grab at least partially as a public safety measure. It is also disturbing that they outsource enforcement to a private company at a massive profit.

Channel 8 reports that net fixed camera revenues for the first two weeks in September (excluding the I-235 camera) totaled $50,000. Let's say the average citation was $70. That's a whopping 714 citations at five intersections. The private company running the cameras collects $27 per citation, for a gross income of about $38,600 per month or half a million dollars per year (rounding).

The City is poised to collect $800,000 at this rate ($1.3 million in gross revenue less $500,000 paid out to the private camera company). Until I see bright red signs at each monitored intersection, I don't think I'll be convinced that it's about safety over money.

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